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Clin Transl Med. 2012 Oct 13;1(1):24. doi: 10.1186/2001-1326-1-24.

Versatile inhibitory effects of the flavonoid-derived PI3K/Akt inhibitor, LY294002, on ATP-binding cassette transporters that characterize stem cells.

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Department of Pathology, Dokkyo Medical University Koshigaya Hospital, 2-1-50 Minami-Koshigaya, Koshigaya, Saitama, 343-8555, Japan.


Stem cells are undifferentiated cells capable of proliferation, self-renewal, and production of a large number of differentiated progeny. Stem cells exist even in malignancies. They are called cancer stem cells, which may represent the origin of these tumors and may be one of the reasons of chemoresistance. The phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt pathway is important for the maintenance of pluripotency in stem cells. Flow cytometry assay for identifying stem cells defines a side population of cells that displays low fluorescent dye and is highly enriched for stem cells. The dye efflux is attributed to expression of ATP-binding cassette transporters such as P-glycoprotein and breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP)/ABCG2, which also transport a variety of anticancer drugs. The PI3K/Akt pathway can modulate functions of ABC transporters through various mechanisms. Reportedly, inhibition of the PI3K/Akt pathway caused BCRP translocation in hematopoietic stem cells and glioma stem-like cells. On the other hand, a PI3K inhibitor, LY294002, reversed multidrug resistance in cancer cells that overexpress BCRP not by affecting BCRP translocation but putatively as a competitive inhibitor. Other PI3K inhibitors, wortmannin and PI-103, did not reverse BCRP-mediated drug resistance. Since LY294002 is a derivative of quercetin that is a naturally occurring flavonoid, its chemical structure is similar to those of a group of flavonoids but those of wortmannin and PI-103 are quite different. It is known that many flavonoids are inhibitors of BCRP and PI3K. LY294002 has also been reported to exert inhibitory effects on multidrug resistance-associated protein 1 (MRP1) function via dual mechanisms, competitive block of substrate transport and modulation of expression. Furthermore, LY294002 has been found to antagonize transport activity of P-glycoprotein without influencing its expression. Taken together, LY294002 can inhibit all BCRP, P-glycoprotein, and MRP1, which are three major ABC transporters that are highly expressed in stem cells and cause multidrug resistance. Due to its versatile effects, LY294002 could be a lead compound for developing more effective and tolerable reagents for cancer treatment.

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